Sliding shelves are awesome, but the prices are crazy! These DIY pull out shelves are attractive, durable, and a fraction of the cost!
The Years Before Sliding Shelves
On October 31, 2013, we moved into this home. Shafts of autumn sun pierced through the windows that day, illuminating the kitchen. Granite counters gleamed in the soft golden light.
The kitchen was empty, but it was full of promise.
The polished rock whispered of wine glasses and fruit bowls, of orchids and hors d’oeuvres.
Fast forward a few years and listen. You’ll hear the granite whisper no more. Instead you’ll hear it bitch about spilled milk and dried paint and bread crumbs in the corners so old, they’ve petrified. You’ll hear it groan from the burden it bears, as appliances piled up and cluttered its mottled slab. You’ll hear the granite whine about its dull visage as it reminisces about “The Shiny Years.”
My granite may no longer be the belle of the ball, but she shouldn’t have to suffer the indignities I’ve put her through these past few years.
I decided to restore her to her former glory.
There was only one problem: where would I put all the appliances in order to reveal her bare and simple self? I couldn’t put them in the cabinets – they were all full of crap.
Full of crap….hmmmm…
I squatted down, knees popping in protest. I opened the cabinet doors and looked into their depths. My suspicions were confirmed.
They were full of crap!
I took a quick inventory of the biggest double cabinet and realized that I’d only been using maybe 3% of its space – just a little corner in the front where I kept my barbecue thermometer and muslin bags for straining yogurt. The rest of the space was filed with piles and piles of crap that I hadn’t touched in two years. I even found two packages of ice cream cones that I’m pretty sure I bought before we moved here.
It was time for action.
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A New Hope…
There’s granite under there, somewhere…
And over by the stove…
The problem with cabinets
The problem with most lower cabinets in the kitchen is that they are just too deep, and we chefs are just too old. Stuff gets pushed to the back and forgotten, because the effort involved in excavating and mining kitchen paraphernalia from the depths of lower cabinetry far outweighs the reward. So we push, we pile, and we forget. This leads not only to wasted space but also to duplicate purchases, as we keep buying things we already have, simply because we can’t reach them, or we’ve forgotten we ever owned them in the first place.
The easiest way to reach the nether regions of a cabinet is not for you to go to the nether region, but for the nether region to come to you.
The solution – sliding shelves
Enter slide-out shelves, pull-out shelves, sliding shelves, roll out shelves – whatever the heck you want to call them.
When I first lit upon the idea of DIY pull out shelves for the kitchen, I went online to see how much they would cost. Amazon sells the following for $85.
I gagged and sputtered. It’s a well-built product and people love it. But seriously. $85. For one. I needed eleven of them. Buying them was not an option with our budget. It was time to break out my notepad and start designing.
DIY Pull-Out Shelves Preparation
I wanted to start with the double cabinet pictured above. I wanted two big slide-out shelves, spanning the whole space. That would require knocking out that center support column.
I love breaking stuff!
This left some pieces on the top and bottom that needed to be chiseled out.
I then filled the hole in the bottom with drywall filler. You could also use Bondo wood filler, which has since become my go-to filler. There was no need to be fancy, as I would be covering this part later with adhesive melamine edging.
Don’t worry! That silly support was not load-bearing. The granite is fully supported by the other three sides of the carcass, and the drawer above is supported on the sides. However, just to be safe, I reinforced the crossbar below the drawer with a piece of 3/4″ plywood (not pictured).
Installing Drawer Slides for DIY Sliding Shelves
That shelf was not removable, at least not without destroying the sides of the cabinet. I left it in place and used it as a handy guide for placing the drawer slides for my DIY pull out shelves. I opted for quality ball-bearing drawer slides. They hold a hell of a lot more weight than the cheap ones with the wheels. They look better and feel better, too. For 22″ slides, they run about $16 for a pair at Home Depot. If you don’t have a Home Depot or Lowe’s in your area, Amazon carries them for about a dollar less than the Big Box stores.
Prepping for the Drawer Slides
Before I could install the slides, I had to install some gap-filler plywood strips on which to mount the slides. You can see that the face frame around the cabinet is not flush with the inner cabinet walls. The gap was 13/16″, so I filled it with strips of 3/4″ plywood and three washers at each of the three screws used to secure each strip. Now the mounting strips were flush with the edges of the frame. This was necessary so the sliding shelves could function unimpeded.
After installing all of the mounting strips, I installed the slides.
I finished prepping this cabinet.
The only other cabinet that needed modification was the one under the stove. This is where I keep dog food and where I kept a few pots and pans (removed in the following picture). The plan here was to have one slide out shelf on the right side to hold the big dog food container and two pull out shelves on the left to hold the bread machine and some other stuff. Because of the stove’s power supply, I had to use 18″ slides on the lower left instead of the 22″ slides I used everywhere else.
A slimmer center support
That center support was a big waste of space, so I took it out and built a smaller one out of 3/4″ plywood. I secured it in place with glue and pocket screws. I needed a center support here because I would be installing an upper sliding shelf on the left, and the slide’s support strip needed to be secured in the front and back. I’m not sure why I didn’t get a picture of that support strip, but this picture shows the bottom one.
Crawling around in these cabinets was difficult for a lumpy old turd like me.
The other three cabinets were singles and just needed to be emptied before I installed the DIY sliding shelves. I didn’t take pictures of the process, because it was repetitive, and images of a large middle-aged man squirming around in narrow cabinets shouting profanities might be upsetting to some. Here are the “before” shots of the remaining three cabinets.
Building the Sliding Shelves
Okay, with the slides installed, it was time to build my DIY pull out shelves based on my notebook scribblings. I’ll give dimensions as they relate to the width and depth of the cabinet, in case you are interested in building a few.
I used drawer slides that are each 1/2″ thick, so together that makes one inch. Here are my dimensions:
I used 1/2″ birch plywood. It is important to use high-quality plywood for a project like this. I drilled pocket holes around three sides of the base and on the short ends of the back piece using my Kreg Jig. This has been one of my most loved and used tools, and it is essential for any DIY cabinetry. Click here to find it on Amazon.
Cutting the Sides
To make the sides of my DIY roll out shelves, I first drew the curve I wanted on one of the pieces then cut it out with a band saw. A jigsaw would work just as well.
I sanded the curve to get it as smooth as possible.
Then I used that piece as a template and traced the pattern on all my other side pieces.
Assembling the Pieces
I started constructing the roll out shelf by securing the back piece to the base. First, I ran a bead of glue along the back edge of the base.
Then I placed the glued edge onto the back piece and screwed it into place.
Here is the base and the back.
Next, I ran a bead of glue along one of the base’s sides and screwed it into the corresponding side piece.
After tightening the screws, I wiped away any excess glue that squeezed out on the inside.
Then I attached the other side, screwing it in place along the base and the back piece where I had drilled the pocket holes.
I secured the front piece to the base and sides using glue and brad nails.
Sanding the Assembled Pull Out Shelves
When the glue was dry, I sanded the edges.
Finishing the DIY Slide Out Shelves
My DIY pull out shelf was now ready for finish.
I opted for Watco Danish Oil in medium walnut color.
This stuff is great for quick finishing. I especially like it on plywood. I didn’t put it on the base, as I would be covering that later.
Look how the Danish Oil makes the edges of the plywood pop.
Installing Polywall on the DIY Pull Out Shelves
To cover the bottoms of these sliding shelves, I used a product called Polywall. Polywall is like a shelf liner on steroids. It is much thicker and far more durable. You can find it at your local Home Depot or Lowe’s. It comes in 4’x8′ sheets and runs about $20.
Because of its size, thickness and floppiness, it is a bit difficult to work with when trying to cut the full sheet. It gets easier though as the pieces get smaller. I cut out the sizes I needed for all of my shelves then applied Loctite Power Grab construction adhesive to the shelf bases and smoothed it out with a plastic taping knife.
I then installed the Polywall and pressed it in place.
Installing the Sliding Shelves
With the shelves built and finished, it was time to head back upstairs. I screwed the slides onto the shelf sides and installed the pull-out shelves into the cabinet.
If I left it here, there would be a gap showing when both doors were closed, so I cut a thin strip of Polywall and glued it to the inside of the left door. Now when the doors are closed, only the white Polywall shows through the gap.
Moving around the kitchen, I installed the other shelves and filled them with all the appliances, pots and pans I could.
And now look at my gorgeous granite, barren and beautiful and shining in the morning sun.
Cost for these DIY sliding shelves: about $300
For the Less DIY-Inclined
I understand that not everyone has the time, tools or energy to tackle this project, and that’s okay! Sometimes it’s easier or more practical to buy what you need. In fact, when Handan gave my pantry a makeover, in which she incorporated some wire roll out shelves, she ordered more of them for us to install under the sink and under the cabinet next to the fridge. I love them every bit as much as my own creations! Click the pictures to see the products.
For those who are more inclined to buy than to DIY, here are some of our favorite roll out shelves available for purchase.
For corner cabinets and blind corners, there are some awesome solutions from Rev-A-Shelf!
Here are some solutions for under-sink and trash.
And a couple for those tight spaces…
If you’d like to see how I made use of the little wasted spaces around the kitchen, then click on the picture below to see my DIY Rolling Jar Storage tutorial. You’ll be glad you did!
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